Centre stalled Delhi Budget on presentation eve, alleges AAP; MHA hits back

21 March, 2023 | Vaishali Sharma

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The Centre and the Kejriwal administration in Delhi have been at odds on a number of topics, and the Aam Aadmi Party said on Monday that the Ministry of Home Affairs postponed the government’...

The Centre and the Kejriwal administration in Delhi have been at odds on a number of topics, and the Aam Aadmi Party said on Monday that the Ministry of Home Affairs postponed the government’s Budget 2023-24, which was set to be presented tomorrow in the Delhi Assembly.

But, officials in the Home Ministry denied the charges, saying that the MHA had instead sought explanation from the Delhi government because their budget allocation was focused on advertising rather than infrastructure. In response to the MHA’s criticism, the Delhi government stated that the budget allocation for advertising has not been raised this year.

“MHA is lying. The total budget of Delhi is Rs 78,800 crores. Out of this, Rs 22,000 crores are for infrastructure, while only Rs 550 crores will be spent on advertisement. Last year also the budget for advertisement was the same. There is no increase in the advertising budget,” Delhi’s Finance Minister Kailash Gahlot said.

The Delhi LG office said that VK Saxena had approved the Annual Financial Statement 2023-2024 with certain observations on March 9, and sent the file to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

“Delhi Government thereafter sought the approval of the President Droupadi Murmu by sending a letter to the Home Ministry. The Home Ministry conveyed its observations to the Delhi Government on March 17. The Budget was to be presented on March 21,” the office said.

The office further said that it is yet waiting for the file to be sent to it from the Delhi Chief Minister.
Delhi Finance Minister Kailash Gahlot, in a statement, alleged that the MHA “stopped” the Delhi government from presenting its annual budget for 2023-24 on its scheduled date, March 21, 2023.

“The budget was sent for MHA’s approval as per regular practice well in advance on March 10, 2023,” the statement said.

“It is now learned that the MHA expressed some concerns on Delhi government’s budget and refused to give it approval through a letter sent to the Chief Secretary on March 17, 2023. For mysterious reasons, the Chief Secretary of Delhi kept the letter hidden for 3 days. I learned about the letter only at 2 pm today i.e. 20 March 2023. The file with MHA’s letter was put up to me officially only at 6 pm today i.e. just the day before the budget was to be presented in Delhi Assembly,” Gahlot claimed.

Gahlot stated that the government reacted to MHA’s concerns and returned the file to Delhi’s LG at 9 p.m. today, after CM clearance.

Nevertheless, the Delhi LG office stated that the file was received at the LG Sectariat at 9:25 PM and was returned to the Chief Minister at 10:05 PM, following LG clearance, for further action as required by law.

The Minister further demanded that the involvement of Delhi’s Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary in “delaying Delhi’s budget” be investigated.

“It is also unfortunate that MHA is spreading falsehoods about Delhi government’s budget. Nearly Rs 22,000 crores have been allocated for capital expenditure next year, whereas the allocation for advertisements is only Rs 550 crore, which is similar to that of last year. The concerns raised by MHA are irrelevant and seemingly done only to scuttle the budget for next year of Delhi government,” he alleged.

Notably, Delhi’s Budget goes to the Home Ministry for approval. Only when the MHA approves the Budget, it is presented in the Delhi Assembly.